‘Shaheen Bagh Inspired Kadru Bagh In Ranchi’

Khushboo Khan, 32, explains how she used her HR skills to recreate a Shaheen Bagh-like site in Ranchi’s Kadru area where women have been holding sit-in protests since January 19

Ranchi is a small city when compared to Delhi or Kolkata. Women here are also a little inhibited in coming out on street to protest. However, people have realised that this is a momentous time when one needs to show the courage to speak up. Ab nahi bolenge, to kab bolenge? (If not now, then when will we speak up?)

Therefore, inspired by the brave women from Shaheen Bagh, our committee, named Hum Bharat Ke Log (We, the people of India) started to come out and register our protest against Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizen. Our protest began on January 19, at a small ground near Haj House in Kadru area. As we are growing in strength, we have named it Kadru Bagh, so that people know our resolve is as strong as that of our sisters from Shaheen Bagh.

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We are protesting against CAA-NRC not only on the grounds that it is discriminatory, but also because we believe that our country isn’t equipped to take on any more people from outside and be able to give them job opportunities, health benefits etc. For, our own countrymen are not getting jobs, access to good health, transport facilities etc. We have slid down as a country on various indices, right from economic growth to women’s safety (a huge issue in Jharkhand), to food safety etc., but the government is busy trying to create a rift between communities to hide their failures.

I worked as a human resource professional for many years before I decided to quit and launch an NGO called ‘She’ that imparts vocational training to women. I must admit that my HR skills came handy in leading this protest against the divisive CAA-NRC. I have been coming here every day for 12 hours and with each passing day people are attending in huge numbers. We are braving 4-5 degree Celsius temperature and some of the protesters are having health issues too but we are ready to risk everything to be heard.

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Ever since this (BJP) government came to power, we as Muslims have been at the receiving end of communal taunts, snide remarks and insulting messages. We remained silent at many instances when our community was directly targeted: the Triple Talaq law, abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir and the court verdict on Ayodhya. But we decided to break our silence when Citizenship Bill was passed because we saw this an attack on the Constitution and constitutional rights of the people.

It is heartening to see common people from all religions protesting against CAA-NRC, because frankly everyone can read between the lines when it comes to this government.  Human beings are losing precious lives and peace in this situation. This government knows only raj (to rule) and not neeti (policies). It must learn to engage with people sincerely. The media must also help the government in its engagement with the people. For now, Shaheen Bagh has shown us the way, and we are going to follow the path of truth sincerely and tirelessly.

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‘Mothers Are At Shaheen Bagh To Save Their Children Future’

Aqsa Khursheed, a 19-year-old Political Science student, says the protest at Shaheen Bagh will not peter out because it is run by mothers who are battling for their children’s well-being

The demonstration at Shaheen Bagh started on December 15 and there are no signs of the protest wearing off. It is amazing to see the sheer number of people and their steely strength to stay put for the cause. People from all religions have been registering their presence at the protest site. The protest site at Shaheen Bagh is a five minute walk from my place, so I have been witnessing it from the start.

While the women sit and sleep near the main stage, men form a circle or sort of human chain around the women to keep them safe. From 3-month-old babies to 12- year-old kids, the kids accompanying their mothers don’t know that history is being created. We are working on Gandhian principles and you can call our protest as Satyagraha.

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If you were to ask me what is giving the women of Shaheen Bagh the strength to carry on in this severe cold of Delhi, I would say it is maa ka jazba (a mother’s passion). There is no power bigger or stronger than the love that a mother feels for her child.

Most women want a safer country for their children, and that is why they are here. Also, many women felt sad about the fact that they couldn’t do much when the students at Jamia were being beaten up last month. They say that if their children (Jamia students) can stand fearlessly, they too can. Maaon ko thand nahi lagti (A mother knows not what cold weather is).

Aqsa Khursheed with an anti-CAA placard at Shaheen Bagh protest site

Shaheen Bagh in Delhi has become the epicentre of protests against Citizenship Act and NRC (National Register of Citizens) and we have assembled here to save the Constitution as well as our constitutional rights.

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We are very well organised and connected. Several days back, there were reports that the police were trying to remove the protestors from the site, after a heavy police presence was seen in the area. Around 4 pm on Sunday (January 5) many police vans, buses etc had gathered up near the site. The word spread and in less than an hour, swarm of people began pouring in at Shaheen Bagh to show their solidarity with the protesters.

Shaheen Bagh has shown to what lengths people can go if they are determined about what they want. Menfolk aren’t complaining about women being at the protest site day in and day out. It is heartening to see that my father, who till a few days ago didn’t know how to cook, keeps on telling my mother, “You be comfortable and go to the protest site, I will take care of myself. I will make my own tea or the food that I want to eat.” He thinks there is nothing more important for my mother than saving the Constitution.

WATCH: How Supporters Keep Shaheen Bagh Alive

The residents of Shaheen Bagh have opened their doors to anyone who comes to the protest site. The level of trust people have in each other is a beautiful experience. People from far off are coming to Shaheen Bagh. We are here to safeguard our fundamental rights as citizens of this country (Articles 14- 32 of the Constitution) and we hope the government will listen to us soon. We have faith that the situation will change, now that the people have woken up to both their rights and duties as citizens.

‘Why Can’t Modiji Take Refugees To Gujarat, Instead Of Assam?’

Sneh Lata Saikia, a 45-year-old Assamese chef working in Delhi, says her opposition to CAA is not about Hindu or Muslim settlers in Assam. It is about limited resources being taken away from the indigenous people of Assam

Like most Assamese, I strongly protest the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). The National Register of Citizens in Assam is a different issue though and it has a historical perspective. The Assamese people have never been partisan or discriminatory on the basis of religion.

But we are worried about the non-Assamese influx in our state and the Citizenship Act will lead to a fresh stream of immigrants in Assam, draining its limited natural and livelihood resources. There are already too many people in our state and all we are saying is that Assam can’t take in anymore people.

I would like to ask Mr Narendra Modi to rehabilitate illegal immigrants (and refugees) in his home state Gujarat which is apparently rich and where every family has at least one NRI. Those are the states that should be shouldering a major share of the burden. Because of its geographical proximity to Bangladesh, Assam has suffered for far too long.

Ever since India gained independence, Bangladeshi people (from what was erstwhile East Pakistan) have been coming to India to settle in Assam. The influx reached its peak in 1979 when during the elections people witnessed a tremendous jump in the number of voters (first in Mangaldoi). Since then people have been worried about the pressure on natural and economic resources as well as their identity with respect to illegal immigrants.

Nearly 900 people lost their lives from 1979 to 1985 in Assam movement. We felt things would change when Rajiv Gandhi signed the Assam Accord in 1985, but nothing much changed. The current government played smart by first coming to power by promising the Assamese people that they would take care of the illegal immigrants but then went back on their word by introducing CAA. We are back to square one. Assamese people feel cheated.

Even if the government had said that people who came to India till 1971 would be granted citizenship, it would be okay. Those were difficult times. However, to push the cut-off date to 2014 is just too much. The government isn’t willing to do the hard work of filtering out illegal immigrants, and thus this blanket approach.

My family belongs to Naogaon in Assam and it would not be wrong to say that there are around 80% illegal immigrants there. The Inner Line Permit has not been implemented in our area, so anyone can come and settle there.

Our opposition is not about Bangladeshi Muslims or Bangladeshi Hindu. It is about the numbers of non-Assamese people settling in here. One can witness the imbalance already. Last year, when I went to my village in Juria Baman (a Brahmin settlement), I was the only woman walking on the roads. How things have changed!

The whole world is facing a refugee crisis and I am all for supporting people caught in the crossfires of armed conflicts. But my point is – also an Assamese protester’s view – that the entire burden should not be put on one place alone.

I feel this is just an exercise by the BJP to increase their vote bank in the North East. Hindus from other countries will forever be indebted to BJP for granting them citizenship and thus will be a loyal vote bank.

Apart from the BJP we also feel betrayed by the AGP (Assam Gana Parishad). How come Prafulla Mahanta is waking up so late on the issue? They are now going to SC against the amendment when it’s already too late. And our Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal is not ready to come out and interact with the masses, he is sitting inside closed doors and assessing the situation. True leaders don’t work like that.

Like most families, my family back home in Assam is suffering too. My 75-year-old mother has cataract and I am worried for her. What if the situation takes a turn for the worse? Even though I fully believe that my Assamese brethren wouldn’t go in for violent agitation like in West Bengal, one never knows what miscreants can do. When the Bill was passed in Lok Sabha, I had an intuition that this government would not be able to handle things and the situation would worsen. I was right. Many people lost their lives since. We hope this problem is sorted out once and for all.